Military News

5 Army engineers arrive home from Iraq

Sgt. Benjamin Lee was greeted by a raucous crowd of 30 friends and family Thursday at the Boise Airport, as he and four other soldiers returned from Iraq.

"It's another culture shock getting back to regular life," said Lee, of Nampa. "It's going to be a change of pace."

Lee, 26, is one of 10 Idaho Army Reserve soldiers from the 321st Engineer Battalion based out of Gowen Field who recently returned from Iraq.

Bad weather snarled the soldiers' travel plans. The group has been coming in piece-meal — some by plane, others in rental cars — from Fort Benning in Georgia and Washington's Fort Lewis over the past two days.

Lee got to hold his 5-month-old daughter, Taylor, Thursday for only the second time since leaving for training last December. Lee will go back to his job as a guard at the Idaho Department of Correction maximum security prison south of Boise.

"It's been hard without him," Lee's wife, Gillian said. "We have a 5-month-old baby and he's missed out on a lot."

A large crowd of well-wishers, many carrying signs and balloons, greeted the soldiers when they returned.

Sgt. Stanley Stonier said he was "humbled" by the welcome, which included friends and family who had flown in from all over the country.

Stonier, of Meridian, said he will go back to working construction and finish up a bachelor's degree in business at Boise State University.

"It feels great," he said. "It's a new chapter in life."

The soldiers started training one year ago and served for 10 months in Iraq. Their jobs ranged from route maintenance, a mild term for scouring treacherous Iraqi roads for bombs, to foot patrols.

Staff Sgt. Ian Freeman, headquarters operations sergeant for the 321st at Gowen, said he is proud of the soldiers' accomplishments in Iraq. He said combat engineers have been in high demand in the Iraq war, where "speed is the key."

"You have to be very fluid with high adaptability because we are not only engineers, we're infantry," he said. "If a mission comes down and they say, 'We don't know who can do it,' they turn to the engineers."